Jessica joined the Department of Environmental Science as a Lecturer on 1st December 2019. This has felt a bit like a ‘homecoming’ for Jessica who completed her PhD in this Department in 2018. She was supervised by with Georgina Cundill, Sheona Shackleton and Mathieu Rouget and the title of her thesis was ‘Stewardship and collaboration in multifunctional landscapes: a transdisciplinary enquiry’.
Jessica recently completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Environmental Learning Research Centre at Rhodes University, where she further developed the research on LANDSCAPES-LINKAGES-LEARNING which she started in her PhD. Before that Jessica worked as a practitioner-researcher in various projects in KwaZulu-Natal in a diversity of applied environmental research settings: catchment management, urban ecosystem management and land use planning.
She graduated with an MSc in Zoology from North-West University (Potchefstroom) in 2013. Her MSc research was an example of applied social-ecological research which sought to address the research-implementation gap by tracking and understanding the implementation of a sustainable pest management system in sugarcane. Jessica has an undergraduate BSc in Botany and Entomology, with Honours in Entomology. She has also learnt many important skills in the ‘University of Life’, having travelled and worked in Europe and in South Korea between her various studying stints.
Jessica grew up on a farm in a family passionate about conservation and social justice. She is passionate about understanding the patchwork of multifunctional landscapes: the way in which they are all kinds of different things to different people at different times: they are farm land, they are conservation areas, they are grazing land, they are river catchments, they are habitats, they are beautiful tourist attractions, and they are home. So, her work is firstly about LANDSCAPES, and about stewardship and livelihoods in landscapes.
She loves connecting with people, connecting with landscapes, and understanding all the different ways in which people connect to each other, and to landscapes, and the ways in which landscapes are themselves made up of interwoven linkages between various elements of nature and humans. She is deeply curious about how different people in landscapes can better work together to appreciate, protect and heal their landscapes. So, her work is secondly about LINKAGES, like human-nature interactions, and human-human interactions.
To navigate, understand and live in all this linked-up-ness of landscapes, Jessica believes we need a learning orientation: we need to reflect, adapt and learn about landscapes in order to manage and govern them sustainably and equitably. And we need to find ways to bring together all the different kinds of people and knowledge that exist within landscapes to deepen our learning and understanding about why landscapes matter, to whom they matter and how best we can work together to care for landscapes. So, her work is thirdly about LEARNING, and she draws on learning theories and realist evaluation approaches to support her research on multistakeholder collaboration for sustainability.
Jessica loves her work but she also loves spending time with loved ones in the outdoors: picnics, walks, sundowners on the mountain, hiking and camping are all high on the agenda. She lives in Makhanda with her husband and two cats. They love spending time together in the garden, cooking and drinking wine, reading books and watching moves. Jessica invites you to join her for sundowners on Mountain Drive or a walk in Bot Gardens to link up and learn about each other and our landscapes!
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